Defining the difference between an Agile Impediment and a Story

We had an interesting issue arise this week. A business need, one which has been under discussion for a couple of weeks and was being worked on, was brought up as an impediment in the EAT.

In summary, the appliance box needed an update on its graphics to meet a previously unknown retailer requirement. The appropriate PO was aware of the need and added the story to their backlog for the current sprint. In fact earlier in the week the PO presented their strategy to the key stakeholders who approved the direction.

So it was with quite a bit of surprise to see the same story being brought up as an impediment in the EAT. This did not reflect well on the scrum team and gave the Executive SM and PO the impression that the team had no prioritized it, when in fact they had.

I asked the SM who put this story on the EAT board why they did, since they were involved in the project already and were fully aware of the work that was being put against it. They said that they thought the EAT was the right place to identify important stories that required cross-Meta Scrum coordination.

However, the EAT is not the place to identify cross-Meta initiatives and stories. According to Scrum at Scale, the right place for coordinating stories that require points from other Meta Scrums or Scrum Teams is either the Scrum of Scrums or the EMS. The EAT is used as a last resort to remove impediments that the SM’s can’t. The act of coordination and alignment are not impediments, they are normal aspects of a typical story.

There is an important lesson here for the SM. One of their key responsibilities is to manage the process and make sure everyone is following Agile principles. This was a missed opportunity for the SM to explain the role of the EAT and how it differs from the EAT and the Scrum of Scrums

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